GATINEAU, Quebec (Reuters) - Concerns over artificial turf were replaced by worries over opponents as number one ranked Olympic champions the United States found themselves in the ‘Group of Death’ at the 2015 Women’s World Cup draw on Saturday.
The Americans landed in Group D alongside fifth ranked Sweden, who conceded just one goal in 10 qualifying matches, 10th ranked Australia and African champions Nigeria.
“It’s probably the toughest group there is but I think that’s historically been the path the USA has taken and we’re obviously going to embrace it,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis told reporters.
“At the end of the day you’ve got to play good teams to win it and at some point you’re going to match up with quality opponents and this happens to be right in the first match.”
The U.S. opens play against Australia at Winnipeg on June 8.
The draw, for a few hours at least, put the focus was back on the sport and next year’s tournament rather than a roiling dispute between FIFA and a group of top international players who have filed a lawsuit against world soccer’s governing body and the Canadian Soccer Association claiming discrimination over being forced to play the tournament on artificial turf.
Canada, ranked number eight, top Group A and will open the tournament on June 6 at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium against 14th ranked China.
Other teams in Group A include New Zealand and the Netherlands.
Defending champions Japan lead Group C which includes Switzerland, Cameroon and Ecuador, the last nation to qualify for the tournament.
Second ranked Germany, champions in 2003 and 2007, find themselves in Group B with Norway, Thailand, one of eight World Cup debutants and Ivory Coast, the lowest ranked nation among the 24 finalists at 64.
“Norway is, of course, a very strong side in our group, Thailand is a newcomer,” said German coach Silvia Neid. “As for Ivory Coast, you always have to take African sides seriously.”
The tournament will be staged at six venues across Canada with the July 5 final at Vancouver’s BC Place.
The top two teams in each of the six groups plus the four best third-place finishers advance to the knockout round.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, whose organization has been dogged by a wave of scandals and controversy ranging from allegations of corruption in the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process to the turf row, did not attend the draw, leaving general secretary Jerome Valcke to host the proceedings at an intimate ceremony held at the Canadian Museum of History.
Additional reporting by David Ljunggren. Editing by Gene Cherry